my love

This happens, when I cannot sleep and Leonard Cohen continues to sing in my head.

my love is love
is loving, dear
and with my love 
i'll draw you near
in my words 
you’ll hear your dreams defined
in my eyes 
you’ll find yourself alive

my love, don’t take 
my love too light
for as sweet, as cheerful 
and as bright
it may look like 
in the sunlight 
as dark it gets without the light
and in darkness will obsess you
in silence will bequest you

for all my love
so sweet so light
i've pulled you close 
and held you tight
so tight that 
you can see no other light
just my skin glowing
and every single night
you now lie awake 
to miss my eyes

and love, with this
you know it all
my spell, my charm,
my harming warmth,
transformed you, all 
you thought was yours
my secrets make you moan again
one more step and we’ll be gone 

Women’s History Month and the Monoculture of Success

Foto von Mirko Fabian auf Unsplash
This March, a lot of things that I have recently learned about feminism, diversity, equity and inclusion as well as climate change started coming together. I would like to share my thinking with you.

Many people think that the feminist movement has realized its goals. Women in many countries of the world can wear trousers, vote, or pursue a career. It is widely accepted that a woman may behave similarly to a man. But we are still not in a place, where behaviors and values traditionally associated with females, are ranked highly. A man wearing a skirt, pushing a pram, or doing house work risks being ridiculed – the more visible, the riskier. Am I painting too dark a picture? I don’t think so. I recently read, that  articles about father’s concerns are predominantly read by women. Fathers taking a career break is still an exception to the rule and it is more likely to induce shame and anxiety than boost their self-confidence. 

I call this the monoculture of success. In the monoculture of success, everyone seems to be striving to be the alpha male. I don’t mean to be rude. Let me remind you that mammals are hierarchical animals and human beings are mammals. Needless to say in mammal groups the alpha male gets to eat first, has the right to reproduction etc. You may protest and say, our societies don’t work like that. And you are right. After all, we are the only species with combustion engines and smart phones. 

All joking aside, what I am claiming is that we are the only species able to negotiate our heritage, but in doing so, we must reflect. Above all the difference between being able to fulfill basic needs in a better way and enjoying the abundance that surrounds us in the first world, is to say the least, substantial. All the more troubling is the fact, that there is little evidence that we are able to free ourselves from the hegemony of abundance.

So I asked myself, is there any other model of success possible. And I am happy to say, that I was able to think of one very different one.
Yesterday, I was looking at Hakas in context of the play that I am currently (still) working on. Having been in New Zealand on a student exchange, I know hakas from that experience. They are rituals, which the Maoris perform on various occasions. They can be quite scary, even when they are celebrating something positive. They have an aggressive element to them.

Thinking about the hakas led me to reflect on the time when white men arrived on the land of indigenious people. I then assumed that quite a number of indigenious people resented and cursed the invaders. What then, I continued thinking, if the current situation of climate change, was the result of all these curses? I let the thought sink in. If so, all of a sudden, indegenious people would be triumphing over modern society with its colonial roots. 
I then argued with myself, that if we accept the curse as real, the indigenious people back in the day had conjured a difficult situation which was particularly harsh for their decendants in the global south. The success of their curses must taste bitter, would they witness it. Would they have been able to solve it? Would their approaches, if transferred to the present, have a chance to turn climate change around? Can they offer us a model different from the pattern of going crazy with activisim?
My imagination led me to expect, that indegenious people would observe nature more closely (forgive me, this may be another stereotype). What lessons are there in nature? I am aware of scientists thinking about how to turn carbondioxide into something else, which is exactly, what trees do. So observing nature may in fact be a desirable behavior that can bring us closer to something that we as human kind want and need.

Of course, any new definition of success can only make a significant difference, if a substancial part of society buys into it. Until then, it is just an exercise in thinking in/or out of the box. 

When I try to apply the same thinking to the gendered behavior set out above, I am still stuck. I cannot help thinking that we are not close enough to extinction as a species to make caring behaviors among men and women generally and genuninly desirable. Unfortunately, for a broad swathe of people we are not close enough yet to climate collapse to invest seriously in radical change.
Some examples o Hakas from Sports

Think Inside the Box

As we are designing a new training initiative at work, a colleague thanked me for my creative ideas. While it is very flattering to be called creative, I would prefer to call my thinking connecting. For example, there may be a business rationale, of not making people travel long distances for a meeting of 2 hours. Or people have grown used to consume well-designed training content, so they can stay inside their comfort design, so how does the new initiative fit to these expectations?

What I want to point out, is that seeing and naming the obvious, seems to be so unfashionable, that those, who do it, can win extra points. 

You may have heard about the out-of-the box thinking. As Keith Johnstone says in this little video, people are too preoccupied with the out-of-the-box-thinking, they cannot see the obvious anymore. Yes. Thanks to improvisation theatre, I have learned to overcome that judging voice that tells me about the result before anything has happened, which keeps me from being in the present moment. Since I have started being OK with not knowing what the result will be, I can first of all identify the box for any given situation, then to explore the box carefully, so that I can find - what? Ways out of the box, ways to re-design the box, or to enlargen the box, or find that there was no box in the first place.

This is a question of exercise, and we all exercise it as kids, when we play. But at some point, we grow smart and loose the connection to the obvious and to the moment. Want to go back? Find a place to play. Or find an improvisation theatre class. And don't forget that this is fun!

The Perfect Presentation

©Brett Jourdan on Unsplash
These days I met with a highly motivated young facilitator who had put all his effort into giving a perfect presentation. He was quite a bit disappointed, when I said that we should not concentrate on the slides anymore, but look at crafting the message better. I assume he was also a bit confused as to what I ment. This made me remember my own confusion, when I did my best to give the perfect stage production only to hear from my teachers that it had been boring.

If you, too, are wondering, why an imperfect presentation is better to engage the audience than the perfect one, here is a little (imperfect) explanation:

Gestalt psychology has found that the human mind gets active, if a figure is not complete. If you look at the picture to the left, you see one letter missing, but you can read the word nevertheless. The mind fills the gap. And the mind likes filling the gap. If there is a perfect presentation, there is no gap. The audience may relax and simply watch. You have done the thinking for them, the "gestalt" is complete. 

In facilitation, you want the audience to think with you. If something is not perfect and you accept them filling in for the gap, you have a great buy-in that they will follow you to the end. While this sounds easy, it is sometimes so hard, because we don't want to look incompetent. I would argue that the more skilled a facilitator is, the more they are able to identify the right gaps for a given audience.

Want to try it? I recommend experimenting in a space where seeming incompetent is not as threatening. Can you think of a simple joke that made you laugh? If so, try to tell this joke to other people. Observe, in which cases you can get people to laugh. Are you using questions? How can a simple break before giving away the point help you?